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Helvitismyrkr - 85%

KonradKantor, April 26th, 2012

There is nothing wrong with change, if it's done right. Arckanum's last album, Sviga Lae, was a prime example of change in the wrong direction, and was considered an underwhelming release by many fans of the Swedish, Chaos-Gnostic black metal project. It's perfectly understandable that the colossal, lurking shadow that was ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ would make Shamaatae's follow-up album seem mediocre by comparison. Well, two years and two albums have gone by since everyone's face was completely melted off by the album of eleven thorns, and Arckanum still seems to be at a crossroads. This time around, however, Shamaatae seems to be peering down the correct path, albeit shyly.

First, it's worth mentioning that Debemur Morti released a little-known, two-song Arckanum EP entitled Þyrmir on the night before All Hallow's Eve of 2009. Worth buying for the cover art alone, this little monster contained one additional track and a Pentagram cover. There's no surprise as to why it all but completely fell through the cracks, but it's an interesting artifact nontheless, given the avenue Shamaatae and SethlansTeitan (Dissection, Aborym) took with what at first seems to be a mere b-side of ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ. "Þyrmir" is a fucking monster, and not in the same kind of way that resembles any of the band's other works... until now. Helvítismyrkr, although not an extreme deviation from your standard Arckanum release (if there is such a thing), delivers some powerful punches packed with pummeling Þrash fucking mayhem.

That's not to say Helvítismyrkr feels like a full-on modernized version of Bathory's self-titled the way Ravencult's Morbid Blood does, but tracks like "Or Djupum" and "Nifldreki" are easily enough to make Joel Grind eat his heart out. Shamaatae treads down these new paths carefully, as the album kicks off much like Sviga Lae should have. Helvítismyrkr is meticulously mastered in a way that the shredding and blast beats don't overpower the nice humming of the bass. It's safe to say Arckanum has found optimal production values that allow the varying genres being played to sync well with one another without songs sounding as if they belong on separate albums.

The album catches a bit of a snag with "In Svarta," which is a pretty disappointing filler track that feels a bit like a failed and misplaced "Þá Kómu Niflstormum." "Svartr ok Þursligr" brings even more surprises to the table, as its conclusion adds some wonderful violin melodies (or viola, I can't be sure) that actually add to the song's emotional intensity. All the album's building up finally collides in "Sisoltinn," the album's fantastic closer, leaving much room for repeated spins and overall album growth. Helvítismyrkr is a wonderful new beginning for Shamaatae, and as future experimentation guides the artist through overgrown paths, listeners will be left with excitement, pleasure and longing as they follow along.

There's an overall sadness behind many of Shamaatae's riffs that uniquely embodies that which makes Arckanum such an interesting act to stand back and observe. In a genre where melodic emotion and intimidating ugliness have traditionally only flirted with one another -- whether it's emotion hiding from Mayhem's grotesque features in De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or the exact opposite, as is the case with many USBM bands -- Shamaatae constructs in a way that allows everything that embodies extreme music to confidently walk hand in hand. Such balances are rarities, and should definitely be both cherished and shared.

Originally written for MetalReview.com

A Solid Rebound Album - 85%

CrimsonFloyd, April 8th, 2012

Shamaatae, the man behind the one man band Arckanum, is a vet of the black metal scene. He’s been around since 1993, and has long been known for producing solid, if unspectacular black metal with a bit of Gothenburg melo-death flair. Then, in 2009, Arckanum took the black metal world by storm with ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, arguably the best Swedish black metal album not released by a man named Quorthon. The riffs were absolutely phenomenal: flowing yet scorching, like liquid fire. It's an intoxicating sound that simultaneously hypnotizes and stimulates. Since ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, Shamaatae has stuck with this style, and who can blame him? There are so many possibilities available in this wicked style of riffing and there is no reason to abandon it too soon.

Unfortunately, ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ’s follow-up Sviga Læ did feel a bit too much like leftovers album: similar style, but less fire, insight and motivation. Well, Aracknum’s latest Helvítismyrkr qualifies as a rebound album. The fire is back and so is the inspiration. On the whole, Helvítismyrkr follows the format of ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ: sharp production, juicy riffs gushing with all kinds of emotions, raspy growls and a rumbling rhythm section that makes the earth shift beneath your feet. This is seriously gripping stuff; the progressions tend to ascend toward higher and higher notes, pushing the listener to incubus-induced ear orgasm.

Most the songs don’t venture too far from that general formula, which is fine, because the formula is absolutely intoxicating. It’s like finding a good wine: if it’s good, why not buy a whole case? The exception would be “Svartr ok Þursligr” which throws a total curveball at the listener by accompanying its addictive riffs with a pair of melancholic fiddles, sounding like some blackened tribute to The Red in The Sky Is Ours. The only mystery is why the fiddles were only used once on the album when they complement Arckanum’s sound so well.

Though not on par with ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, Helvítismyrkr is still one of the better releases in Arckanum’s discography. It’s a consistent album that never loses momentum and continuously offers enticing riffs. Fans of the band will not be disappointed and newcomers are likely to be impressed.

(Originally written for http://www.deafsparrow.com/)

Arckanum - Helvitismyrkr - 75%

Pratl1971, October 25th, 2011

Beginning in the traditional lo-fi demeanor we’ve come to expect from true black metal releases, Arckanum issues its seventh full-length release in Helvitismyrkr, a disturbing venture into the mind of mainman Shamaatae’s disheveled psyche. With all of the speed, revelry and sardonic wit of past releases, we’re once more dragged kicking and screaming into the abyss of a damaged chemical craft.

What is most intriguing about Arckanum is how we surreptitiously await his newest foray into all things dark and desolate. Coming off Sviga Lae, which was quite good if you know what to expect going into any Arckanum release, the proverbial black light was on this effort to see if anything new would or even could be implemented. What we have here is much of the same Arckanum, but for this lone writer’s taste it’s fine just as it is. With certain bands that are Norwegian by location and shall remain nameless, a venture into the gothic mall fanbase seems to suit them just fine, and the change there was both drastic and quick. A band like Sweden’s Arckanum is as raw and primitive as it gets and expectations are usually set in the fact that we don’t want Shamaatae to shift gears too much. As long as the ideas are original to the concept of the band and not rehashes of past glories, then we await with a tortured silence for his next jaunt into the din.

The album is much better produced than past efforts, which is always a plus. “Myrkrin Vinna Hefnt” shows the range of both tempestuousness and a subtle ebon that covers the music with a sheer coating of intelligent effort and honesty. As soon as you’re captivated by the partial fast black metal that races through your head like a freak lightning storm you then find the ‘eye’ of the storm in the slower, draining tones that are specifically designed to shatter your comfort zones. When you expect a left or right turn Shamaatae stops dead and rattles your frame for gratuoitous seconds at a time, all properly places among the hellish chords. What I like about Helvitismyrkr is the transition into straight ahead thrash and speed in certain areas, but this is nothing new to Arckanum. While still retaining blackness unfiltered, Helvitismyrkr offers a primal visual into the emptiness and volatility that each one of us employs but doesn’t address; the album denies convention and fills the voids with some pure metal music for the descending soul. “In Svarta” capitulates on the premise of Celtic Frost-like music ala Monotheist with such brooding music. Not to follow the derivatives, “Nifldreki” picks up the pace with the same tremolo-picking that good black metal unapologetically utilizes to the nth degree. I always especially enjoy the vocals, which are more a breathy sneering than the typical screeching that makes me want to throw the CD across the room with violent abandon. Every song here is as black as it can get these days without falling into the pedestrian traps set by too many a diseased bandwagon rider. For much of the same you can only hope and expect Arckanum to keep putting out quality music of this order. My favorite track is “Svartr ok Þursligr” for its old-school black thrash sound that is nowhere near conventional or trivial, as many late comers to game these days distribute with ignorant selfishness.

There will be nothing exactly new here in terms of the sound or even the style, but true Arckanum fans will not be disappointed. Quite simply, if you like Arckanum for its progression and growth, this album will supplement your need for speed.

(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)

The rust has begun to settle in on this scythe - 70%

autothrall, September 17th, 2011

Perhaps the biggest weakness of Shamaatae's 7th full-length album under the Arckanum banner is that it stands in the shadow of a trio of superior works, one of which (ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ) stands as one of the best Swedish black metal efforts I've heard in my life, not to mention one of the best genre offerings of the 21st century. Next to that, even last year's Sviga Læ was a disappointment, though a strong one with some residual brilliance from its predecessor. Helvítismyrkr is unquestionably a solid record in the same vein as the last batch, but it suffers from a few half-formed riffing sequences and a generally predictable air that lacks some of the driving intensity of his 2009 masterpiece, and ultimately winds up more on the level of a Kampen or Kostogher in total quality (neither of which are bad).

The production and richness of the guitars here is a direct remnant of the last two full-lengths, and the central feature in its broad swath of melodic, mythologically inspired lamentations. It's got a mildly more airy tone to it than ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, drawing a little on the debut Fran Marder in terms of aural aesthetics. Where the vocals felt forced, brutal, and hanging just below the storming guitars on the last two albums, here they seem to grant themselves more space, a dark bark over a desolate river course of simplistic Swedish riffs that sound like a black metal sibling to countrymen Amon Amarth. What Helvítismyrkr does not fall short on is its variation: from the gliding, plodding melodic heavy metal foundation of "In Svarta" to the rumbling black/thrash undercurrent of "Or Djupum" with its ample Motörhead bass and minimal, driving notation. "Prudgelmnis Hlaut" has a lot of pumping, romping chords in it, though the double bass rhythms feel pretty samey with the other half of the album ("Helvitt", "Nifldreki", etc.)

The problem is really just that most of the riffing sequences feel only partially formed. Take, for example, my favorite song on the album, "Svartr ok pursligr" which sounds as if it's opening guitars would have summoned up the perfect riff with just a dash more complexity. Transitions ebb and crash into one another here, whether dead stops or natural ligaments, but while the new guitars entering each composition always seem enticing at first, they seem to also peter out into predictable patterns that lack some of the subtlety of the prior records, or rather, their hypnotic, potent effect. The vocals, while fully grisly and Shamaatae, also seem a bit more repetitive and numbing on this album Sviga Læ or ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ. Granted, as far as such primitive guitars rhythms go, the clarity and punch of the production goes a long way to dressing them up, but I came out of Helvítismyrkr feeling it was just more of the same, only less compelling.

It's still a solid way to kill 50 minutes, mind you, but I'd be lying if the thought wasn't nagging at the back of my mind that producing four full-lengths in as many years might be wearing the formula a bit thin. Visually, it's an appealing record with beautiful, mysterious cover art that maintains loyalty for the Arckanum image, but beneath its surface it lacks some of the black, formidable subtleties that defined all of Shamaatae's best works. It's more than tolerable, but seems to play it a fraction too safe at what might be the perfect time in Arckanum's legacy to deviate or experiment.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com